Editor’s Page: Owner-Handlers, Jane Forsyth and Our Redesign

Welcome to our September issue in which we salute our sport’s dedicated owner-handlers and their commitment to excellence.

With the recent introduction of the AKC’s National Owner-Handled Series, we wanted to hear from participants in the program about the strengths and weaknesses of the NOHS. We sent Betsie Czeschin, a successful owner-handler herself, to canvass a cross-section of exhibitors for their views. The result is “Owner-Handlers Have Their Say,” on page 100. Very interesting reading.

To hone one’s skill as an owner-handler, developing seamless teamwork with a canine partner, is enormously gratifying. Working successfully with one generation of dogs after another is reward enough for many. Others may eventually want to branch out into other areas of the sport. What motivates an owner-handler to explore professional handling, judging or pioneering  a rare breed on its way to AKC recognition? You’ll read about the personal journeys of several in “After Owner-Handling,” on page 112.

Also in our Owner-Handlers special section: an interview with the winner of the 2014 Winkie® for Best Owner-Handler, Jean Hetherington of the renowned Hetherbull Bulldogs (page 106); “The Welcome Mat” (page 116), a wonderful think piece by multi-Group judge Elaine Lessig who recalls her own first time in the ring as an owner-handler and encourages us to make that foray less daunting to newcomers; and the AKC’s NOHS statistics (page 108).

The dog fancy is still coming to terms with Jane Forsyth’s passing. As a young professional handler, she entered what was largely a man’s world then. Her talent and drive propelled her to the top. She and her husband, Bob, with their assistants, dozens of top dogs and their trusty Bluebird bus were a mainstay on the East Coast for many decades. Jane and Bob each won a Best in Show at the Garden, and together were inducted, in 1988, into what is known today as the Anne Rogers Clark Hall of Fame (particularly fitting, as the Clarks and Forsyths were lifelong friends and colleagues). Mark Threlfall, an AKC judge, former professional handler and assistant to the Forsyths, wrote a touching tribute for Dogs in Review (“Remembering Janie,” page 58), accompanied by many vintage photos Bo Bengtson chose from his archives.

We appreciate our loyal readers for so many reasons, not the least of which is their vast collective knowledge of the sport and their attention to detail. When judge and Welsh Springer exhibitor Jerry Alan Berkowitz saw the photo of an unidentified Irish Setter exhibitor on page 110 of our August issue, he was quick to inform me that the lady in question was Joyce Nielsen, a professional handler as well as the breeder of the legendary Thenderin Irish Setters in California for 50 years. It was a dark, black-and-white photo, but that didn’t deter Jerry. Thank you, sir, for your eagle eye.

Finally, we hope you notice our redesign. We’ve tweaked fonts, columns and layouts to give the magazine a fresher, more contemporary look. We had originally planned to unveil the redesign in January, in honor of the magazine’s 20th anniversary in 2016, then decided to surprise you a little early.

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